SETI@home Help File for Macintosh
SETI@home, UC Berkeley, 1999
This document provides information on setting up and using SETI@home.
For additional information, go to our Web site:
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* Logging in to SETI@home
* The blinking icon
* Removing SETI@Home
* Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Thank you for installing SETI@home. With your help and the help of
hundreds of thousands of other computer users like you, we increase the
odds of detecting signs of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.
This Help file explains how to configure and use SETI@home. You need
not read it unless you have some questions about how SETI@home works,
how to alter its settings, or how to remove it from your computer.
SETI@home actually runs in two ways: The application and the
screensaver. It can do its work in either of these modes: it
downloads blocks of data through the Internet, performs the number
crunching on that data (looking for orderly patterns that might
originate in outer space), returns the results, and gets another block
of data. The application is represented by a green radio telescope
icon in the Menu Bar (normally at the upper right of your screen). You
can open the application window by selecting Launch from this icon.
The screensaver program runs when you havent used your keyboard or
mouse for a while. It displays color pictures showing the data
analysis process. Normally the application processes data only when
the screensaver is running. Optionally, you can have the application
process data at any time by launching the application.
Logging in to SETI@home
To use SETI@home you must create an account on the SETI@home server.
Your account is identified by your email address. This lets us notify
you in case you discover ET.
If you run SETI@home on several computers, they can all run under the
When you install SETI@home, you are asked whether you want to create a
new account or use an existing account. The account is verified or
created on the server, and SETI@home will run under this account
indefinitely. If you want to switch to a different account, bring up
the application window, open the Settings menu, and select
Change/Create login. You will be shown the name of the current
account, and you can elect to switch to another existing account or
create a new account.
To switch to an existing account, you just type in the email address.
If you create a new account, you will be asked for:
1. Name or nickname (handle)
2. Email address
4. Postal code
5. Whether your computer is at school, work, or home
We will not give this info out to anyone. We use it to get statistical
information such as how many people in country X are participating in
SETI@home, how many users are at school, etc. This information is on
display at our Web site: http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu.
If you check the option to display your email address, your email
address might be shown on our web site if your screensaver finds
something interesting, or if you earn some other mention, such as by
crunching more data than any other user. The default for this setting
is to NOT provide your email address. Its up to you. You can also
decide whether to have your name appear on the web site.
SETI@home lets you express your preferences for when it does data
analysis, and when it makes network connections. You are asked for
your choices when you install SETI@home, but you can change them later
if you like. To do so, bring up the application window, open the
Settings menu, and select Preferences.
There are three sets of preferences: Network Connection, Proxy Server
and Screensaver Options.
You can choose either
* Ask me before connecting to the Internet, or
* Connect automatically whenever needed
You can choose whether SETI@home should ask your permission before
setting up an Internet connection to the SETI@home server. A
connection to the SETI@home server is only necessary when its time to
retrieve a new block of data. On a typical G3 computer, this will
happen every one or two days. Therefore, connection is not going to
occur very frequently, but still you may want to have the screensaver
alert you before doing so.
Connect automatically whenever needed allows SETI@home to be more
productive. The screensaver will connect to the Internet whenever it
completes a work unit to send back results and get more data to
analyze. This makes sense if you have a full-time Internet connection
such as a Local Area network (LAN), ASDL or Cable Modem service, or if
you have a dedicated dial-up phone line used only by the computer.
If you choose this, dont be shocked when the modem suddenly begins to
dial the phone, seemingly out of nowhere. SETI@home probably just
needs more data to analyze.
If you have a dedicated line with a dial-up connection (modem or ISDN),
you must also set the following 2 options in your Systems Internet software:
* Connect automatically when starting TCP/IP applications (allow
applications to open connection).
* Disconnect if idle for xx minutes. This will allow SETI@home to
dial the phone and will hang up the phone after SETI@home is done
Ask me before connecting to the Internet is the better option if your
computer shares a phone line with voice calls, a FAX machine, etc.
This setting will prevent the computer from interrupting another call.
This is also the correct choice if you do not wish to set your Systems
Internet software to dial automatically.
The Ask me option does not allow the screensaver ever to connect to the
internet directly. Instead, the flashing SETI@home icon will alert you
to run the SETI@home application, where you can tell SETI@home to make
its connection. If you have not set automatic dialing in your system
software, remember that you must establish your Internet connection
first before telling SETI@home to connect.
SETI@home will connect to the Internet using the connection that is
currently selected in your PPP or FreePPP Control Panel. This should
be the connection that you use to access the Internet.
For increased security, some organizations use an "HTTP proxy server"
when connecting to the Internet. If you are not sure whether you need
to use a proxy server from your computer, ask your network or system
If your system does require an HTTP proxy for Internet access, check
the box labeled "Connect Via Proxy Server", and enter its name and port
number in the fields provided. When you enter the proxy server's name,
do not type the characters "http://" in the edit text field.
The port number is usually 80. If your proxy server has a different
port number, enter it in the port number field. This field accepts
only numeric digits 0 - 9.
These let you choose when the screensaver runs. If you turn off the
Enable Screen Saver checkbox, then SETI@home will process data only
when you run the application from the Menu Bar icon.
In addition to having the screensaver run after the system has been
idle for a while, you can also set a sleep corner. If you move the
mouse to put the cursor in this corner, the screensaver will activate.
Note that if you have more than one monitor on your Mac, the sleep
corner is always on the main monitor.
You can also activate the screensaver with a hot key. You can change
the hot key if the default (Command-Shift-S) conflicts with another
program on your computer.
If you wish, you may have the screensaver set your monitor completely
black after a period of time.
The Blinking Icon
Sometimes you will notice that the SETI@home icon is blinking. This
means that your attention is needed. Click on the icon and select
Launch for instructions. There are several possibilities:
* SETI@home needs to connect to the Internet, and is waiting for your
permission to do so. If you do not have your computer set to dial
automatically, you will have to dial manually (by running your
Internet Dial-up connection for your ISP) before telling SETI@home to
* There is a new version of SETI@home that you can download from our
web site (http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu).
* SETI@home has encountered an error that you can fix. For example,
you might be out of disk space.
* SETI@home has encountered an internal error. In some cases you may
be able to fix things by quitting the SETI@home application and
starting it again. If the same error occurs repeatedly, please report
it to use via our web site (http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu; go to
Software Download and Help).
Tired of looking for ET? Want to go back to flying toasters? Is
SETI@home causing problems, and want to turn it off? Here are the
four options you have:
* If you want to temporarily disable the SETI@home screensaver,
select Preferences from the SETI@home icon menu in the Menu Bar.
Select Never for the Start After setting.
* To select another screensaver, go to Control Panels under the Apple
menu and run the Extensions Manager. Check your desired screensaver
program. Then restart your computer. After you do this, SETI@home
will process data only when you run it as an application by selecting
Launch from its Icon menu in the Menu Bar.
* To totally disable SETI@home without removing it from your hard
disk, go to Control Panels under the Apple menu and run the
Extensions Manager. Then uncheck SETI@home and restart your
* To remove SETI@home from your computer and hard disk, drag it from
the Control Panels folder (inside the System Folder) and drag it into
the trash. If you wish, you may also drag the SETI@home Preferences
file and the SETI@home Data folder to the trash from the Preferences
Folder (also inside the System Folder), as well as the SETI@home
Documentation folder in the root directory of your boot drive.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: How do I bring up the SETI@home application window?
A: Click on the SETI@home icon in the Menu Bar and select Launch.
Q: Why are the Preferences, Help and Login menu items sometimes disabled?
A: These are disabled while SETI@home is transferring data over the
Internet, as they could interfere with the transfer.
Q: Can I run SETI@home without installing it as a system extension?
A: Yes. Move the SETI@home icon out of the System Folder : Control
Panels folder, to another location (such as the desktop), and restart
your Macintosh. You can run SETI@home as a stand-alone application
whenever you wish. But if you have another screensaver installed,
SETI@home will run very slowly when the other screensaver is active,
and the other screensavers animation may be sluggish or jerky.
Q: Sometimes my computer seems to ignore mouse clicks or keystrokes while
SETI@home is running.
A: Response to user input may be a bit sluggish on Macintosh models
with slower processors (prior to G3), or with less than 32MB of
physical RAM. You may sometimes need to hold the mouse button over the
Menu Bar for a few seconds before getting a response.
Q: Sometimes I cannot get SETI@home to run from its icon in the Menu Bar or
using the hot key or sleep corner.
A: SETI@home will not launch if another application has a modal dialog
frontmost. The Standard File (Open and Save) dialogs are examples of
modal dialogs. You must dismiss the modal dialog for SETI@home to launch.
Q: SETI@home seems to get very slow or even stop at times.
A: Different portions of the same work unit can vary greatly in speed.
If progress seems to freeze, be patient and let it run overnight. It
may have gotten past the slow spot by then.
Q: What can I do to make SETI@home run faster?
A: Here are some suggestions:
Each time SETI@home launches, it optimizes itself for the current
monitor color depth (256 colors, Thousands, Millions). If you change
the color depth while SETI@home is running, it may slow things to a
It should run reasonably at any screen depth, but it will run somewhat
faster at lower screen depths (256 colors) than higher ones. Screen
resolution (800X600, 1024X732, etc.) should have negligible effect on
SETI@home runs fastest if the screen is blanked, so for maximum speed
set the preferences to blank the screen after a short time.
Many Macintosh models are equipped with the Energy Saver Control
Panel. This can put the computer's processor, hard drive, and monitor
in a low-power sleep mode if the mouse and keyboard have been idle for
a period of time. Although SETI@home can continue to run when the
computer is in sleep mode, it will run much slower. You may want to
change the settings in the Energy Saver Control Panel to let SETI@home
have more time. Some people prefer to have the computer never sleep so
it can analyze more signals, while others prefer to save electricity.
The choice is up to you.
Q: Are there any special considerations if I have 2 monitors or an
extra video card on my Mac?
A: SETI@home may run much slower if the 2 monitors are set to different
screen depths (number of colors). It is also slower if the window is
split across the 2 monitors (in application mode). Some video boards
are much more sensitive to these things than other video boards.
Q: Only part of the SETI@home window appears on my screen.
A: In response to many requests from our users, SETI@home will now run
on systems with screen resolutions smaller than 800X600 pixels. But
if the window is larger than the screen resolution, parts of the
SETI@home display window may extend off the edge of the screen. If
this happens, we recommend switching your monitor to a higher
resolution using the Monitors Control Panel. Or, you can launch
SETI@home as an application from its icon in the Menu Bar, then move
the window around to see all the data.
Q: I see references to versions 1.04 and 1.4. What is the difference?
A: The SETI@home version numbering system consists of two whole numbers
(integers) separated by a period. The part after the period is not a
fraction. The first number is the major version number, the second is
the minor version number.
Originally, we called the versions 1.0, 1.1, ..., 1.9, 1.10, etc. But
this caused confusion; for example, which version is newer, 1.2 or
1.11? We felt it would help to include a leading zero for minor
versions less than 10, to emphasize that version 1.02 is older than